Ovid's caginess with the identity of his enemy in the Ibis is one of the most notorious aspects of the poem (Casali, Williams): the figure entirely lacks a real name and does not even receive a pseudonym until lines 55ff., when Ovid identifies Callimachus as his major influence and borrows his predecessor's choice of the name 'Ibis' for his own enemy. Despite the emphasis on Greek precedent seen in the characterization of his enemy, however, I argue that Ovid's Ibis has been carefully crafted to engage with the generic tendencies of Roman satire, especially as seen in Horace's own conceptualization of the "walking muse." By writing a poem like the Ibis, which claims its primary influence from Greek literature even as it ostentatiously avoids the Roman genre with the closest ties to invective, Ovid is using the literature to reflect the social estrangement forced upon him by his exile and absence fromRome. He might have imagined a scene or meeting as a means of expressing his frustration with his anonymous enemy, as he had done elsewhere in the exilic corpus. Instead, he chose to echo the marginalization of his relegation with a poem that is kept apart from satire generically, despite the thematic similarity of a poetic persona railing against a particular person. Satire was a genre inextricably bound to not only the city but to the action of living there, the social connections that came of being a Roman citizen surrounded by Roman citizens (Freudenburg 2005). Ovid's deliberate avoidance of contemporary urban aspects in the Ibis, with its long and recondite catalogue of mythologically-based curses, therefore emphasizes the sense of displacement inherent in exile (Edwards, Favro) - just as his enemy's uncertain identity recalls the later satirists' refusal - or inability - to name names.
The anonymity of "Ibis" remains consistent throughout the poem, but the most emphasis on the issue comes early on in the poem, leading up to the authorial assignment of his enemy's pseudonym in line 62. Earlier in the poem, Ovid even seems to be encouraging confusion on his audience's part: in particular, a sudden and jarring shift in lines 22-3 between ipse ("Ibis") and ille (Augustus) leaves his audience scrambling to identify two people rather than one (Casali). This confusion only grows with the eventual appearance of the pseudonym: although "Ibis" is everywhere in the text, emphasized by a triple polyptoton (Ibin, 55; Ibide, 59; Ibidis, 62) across the passage, he is also nowhere, since each use of the name refers specifically to Callimachus' enemy. The target of Ovid's poem remains hidden in second-person pronouns (teque tuosque, 56; tu, 62): despite the presence of the name in the oblique cases, Ibisitself (the nominative and vocative form) is nowhere to be found. In the end, Ovid is carefully managing his audience's expectations of addressee and genre with his treatment of his enemy's name in both the introductory section and the excursus on Callimachus' Ibis. The poet's refusal to give a straight answer has become a clever means of sidestepping Horace's"Lucilius problem" (Freudenburg 2001) - that of writing in a genre whose pinnacle had already been reached, a specifically Republican genre which had become too dangerous to use without retreating from the use of actual names to the safety of anonymity. By trumpeting a Greek poem as his primary influence, and one written by an author who had himself struggled with the purpose of poetic composition in an ostensibly inferior age, Ovid is therefore acknowledging his own belatedness even as he asserts his desire - his need - to keep writing.